fair isle baubles

Harriet’s cowl is coming along nicely but I really did fancy a change.  Strangely enough I have only one other WIP!  I apologise if I have caused any injuries as readers fell to the floor in shock, hitting their heads on sharp objects on the way down.  Arnica for bruises and comfrey for healing, turmeric, ginger and chilli for inflammation and pain control (recipe here).  Back to the knitting.  Apart from Stuart’s socks which I was going to take to Glasgow with me this weekend, but I really do want to finish my cowl, so his feet will remain chilly for a few more days, I have no other UFOs/WIP, call them what you will.

However I do have a very long list of projects waiting for me to start and one of them is this, or to be more grammatically correct, these.

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Christmas baubles for the Shetland MRI appeal.  Perfect, an evening project that is a change from the cowl but will not become a UFO!  Out came the box of shetland yarn and it was on the needles.

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I knit pretty much everything in the round and even now I twist cast ons.   When there are hundreds of stitches I blame the fact that there are too many stitches.  But when there are only 12?  There are too few.  Believe me, when you have more needle than stitches there is a twist waiting to happen.

I used this pattern for my first attempt.   The pattern calls for 4.5 needles.  I tend to knit fairly loose and wasn’t going to bother with a swatch for something that is about the size of a swatch when completed so just went down to 3.5 needles and spindrift yarn from Jamiesons.   Apart from my inability to count to three (as evidenced by the number of times I had to tink back …) it was a dream to knit.

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And within no time at all I had a flat bauble.

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Some stuffing, an icord hanger and it’s bottom sewn up and we have a Christmas bauble. Hopefully the first of many.  I may pop my 3.5s into my bag this weekend in case I need a break from the cowl again!

Love Gillie x

 

 

cars, trains and pumpkins

Bertie (previously known as Loofah due to the first four digits of his number plate LOO4) finally rolled his wheels for the very last time and left Susie without a car.  A replacement was found, but it (name yet to be discovered) was in Gateshead and Susie was in Leeds.  So she she hopped on the train to Durham for a few hours R&R (and freezer scoping) at home, pumpkin carving, slushy movie watching and a new car!

We’ve never been hugely into Halloween, and  my own personal interests tend towards Samhain (I will be drumming around my fire pit tonight) but it is hard not to be seduced into buying at least one pumpkin.  I read somewhere I think, that cutting the base of the pumpkin rather than the top reduces rot and consequently makes the carved fruit last longer.  I have absolutely no idea if this is true or indeed why it should be true … but I tried it nonetheless.  Susie and spent ages on Pinterest checking out the carvings created by knife wielders far more deft than we and instead plumped for the simple but, we felt, striking.

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Now to work out what to do with the ghost’s innards.  Stuart is no fan of pumpkin and I knew better than to try an tempt him with pumpkin soup of any variety.  But I do know my daughter and she is partial to a sweet pie.  So whilst they went to pick up the  new wheels I made pumpkin pie.  I make no claim to this being my own recipe, it comes from my well thumbed copy of The All American Cookbook by Martha Lomask.

  • 2 medium eggs
  • 225 ml milk
  • 400g cooked pumpkin flesh*
  • 125g sugar (I used a mix of demerara and golden caster)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmet
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp melted butter (I forgot this and it was fine 🙂 )

*since I had scraped the flesh out of the pumpkin I couldn’t roast it so I added about 250ml of water and simmered gently for 20 minutes and then drained and squeezed out as  much water as I could.  From one medium pumpkin I got 700g of cooked flesh.

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  1. Line a 23cm pie tin with sweet shortcrust pastry.  If you can remember the butter (!)  brush it over the base of the pastry case.
  2. Whisk milk and pumpkin flesh together.  Then add the remaining ingredients and continue to whisk.  I shoved the whole lot in my magimix and it came out perfectly well.
  3. Pour into pastry case.

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4. Bake at 200C for 40-45 minutes until a knife in the centre of the pie comes out    clean.

5. Eat.

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The remains of the pie went back to Leeds with Susie in the as yet unnamed car with a second pumpkin for carving tonight.

Finally, the seeds.  Stuart, who as I  mentioned is not greatly enamoured of pumpkin flesh, thinks these are the best bits.  I usually struggle to remove the flesh from the seeds but heard a brilliant tip on the radio this week.  Put them in a salad spinner.  It worked a dream.

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Dry, place on a heavy roasting dish.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with seasoning of your choice, I used ginger, cinnamon, salt and pepper)  Place in a hot oven for five minutes.  Don’t burn your fingers trying to get them out of the roasting dish …

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Happy Halloween

Love Gillie x

shetland sunday tea

I live in a small village in the north east of England where baking is competitive sport played at Olympic level.  I am on the coffee morning rota and when I’m on duty I have some serious baking anxiety.  It has to be easy to bake in bulk, easy to cut up, not require any obscure ingredients or complex baking techniques, not messy to eat, and finally pretty foolproof – I cannot start again at 9am on Wednesday morning!  For those who find themselves in a similar fix I usually go for Lemon Drizzle Cake, Brownies, Date flapjacks or chocolate fridge cake (a million variations).img_6571.jpg

There are some one-off events where the ante is upped, soup recipe induced paranoia anyone?  But I digress.  Back to baking.

For anyone who has not visited Shetland let me introduce you to Sunday Tea.  This is not merely tea that happens to be held on a Sunday it is an Event with a capital E.  Usually fundraising events, they are held in community halls and comprise bountiful cakes and savouries, tea (of course!), often music and crafts for sale.  For the small price of a ticket you can spend an afternoon of pure bliss eating, shopping and tapping your toes to the music.

First obtain a copy of The Shetland Times,  consult the small adverts for the listings of this week’s Sunday Teas and plan your day.

I went to my first Sunday tea last week at Brae in the northern mainland.  Stuart’s eyes practically popped out of his head as he surveyed the bakes on offer, this man was in business and he disappeared at high speed towards the rolls and sandwiches, planning his savouries whilst eyeing up the cakes at the other end of the enormous table.

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Meanwhile I headed into the knitting display.

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Tam

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When I finish my tam I have a vintage cardigan pattern waiting (and the wool already from Jamieson and Smith)  it is this to which I aspire.

These lacework pieces are things of true beauty and if you could only touch the whisper that is the wool you too would weep with joy.

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A simple short row becomes a shawl that is almost alive.

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Weaving the landscape into pieces of art.

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Back in the hall the teas are going down well.

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Even the World’s Fastest Knitter, the wonderful Hazel Tindall  puts down her needles and mucks in.

The band is getting toes tapping across the hall.

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Eventually we had to tear ourselves away and head down to the harbour to take the ferry home.  But my first Sunday Tea will stay with me …. until my next one in June!

Love Gillie x

flock book and puffin hats

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There is so much more to Wool Week than knitting.  It may seem that everybody spends dawn to dusk with various needles (straights, circulars, sock dpns, long dpns with a makkin belt … ) tucked about their person, but you only have to scratch the surface a little to find a wealth of other activities and tours.  Granted, they may have a knitting bent, and there may be plenty of knitters clicking their needles, but that isn’t the main event.

The Flock Book Prizegiving evening at Tingwall Hall was just such an event.  A flock book is pretty  much what is says on the tin, a record of a flock over a period of time; pedigrees, numbers, registration details, movement etc.  This evening was the prize giving following the Flock Book Show and Fine Wool competition.  Tingwall Hall was full to bursting and that was just the food!  The ladies of Shetland excelled themselves with plate upon plate of sandwiches, cold meats, dips, rolls, cakes, sweets as well as hearty soups and of course endless tea, coffee …. and the bar!

Then just as we thought we could eat no more, the band stuck up and the dancing began. There is nothing like a couple of rounds of The Gay Gordons to aid the digestive process! and yes I know this is not the Gay Gordons, I was too busy dancing to record at that stage.  I think this is a two step but am ready to be corrected as I am not an expert at all!

Finally it was time to award the prizes.  We had already been to have a feel and a sniff of the fleeces in the back room.  I love raw fleece, I love the smell, I love the feel of the lanolin, I love the crimps scattered through the fleeces.

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I would like to point out that I was not the only fleece sniffer, and not one person seemed to think that is was a strange thing to do 🙂

 

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Winning fleece

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And owner of said fleece receiving his award from Oliver Henry of Jamieson & Smith (the Brokers) and this year’s patron of Shetland Wool Week and designer of this year’s beanie (or toorie as it’s know in Shetland).

This one:

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And whilst we are on the subject of winners and hats.  Stuart won a puffin hat in the raffle!  Apparently it is going to be his new fishing hat, assuming it doesn’t scare them off!

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Love Gillie x

the craic was 90

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It’s not all about the classes.  As any knitter will know, whether you are just learning to cast on your first row and filled with disbelief that this row of irregular knots on your needle can become a beautiful scarf or you can knock out an Italian twisted cast on and twenty rows of dual coloured brioche whilst holding an in depth conversation about the state of the economy, knitting is about the craic.

I will knit anywhere, I always have a small knitting bag with me.  I have knitted in long queues, polling stations, every conceivable form of transport, school parents’ evenings, cinemas. I’ve knitted socks dressed as an Edwardian for a WWI re-enactment (and put a stainless steel knitting needle through my hand, be careful, your granny’s needles really are dangerous weapons!).  I’ve knitted and even spun on stage (did you know Joan of Arc’s mother was a spinner, when I played her she was!). I can’t imagine hanging around somewhere without my knitting to keep me busy, and when you whip out your needles people start to talk to you.  A lovely lady and I caused a state of panic on the tube from Kilburn to Baker Street.  I noticed her fine yellow cable socks, clearly hand knitted and she noticed the needles sticking out of my back pack.  Reader we started a conversation.  Two strangers on the tube,  the rest of the carriage was aghast!

The best yarn festivals have a knitting area.  Key elements for a good knitting area are:

  • lots of space, not everyone knits on circulars and needles can be a weapon (see above!)
  • A mixture of seating.  Some people want comfy chairs, some people like to curl up on a sofa, some people, particularly if they are doing a complicated lace pattern or colourwork, want a table on which to lay out pattern and yarns and of course the essential tea (or coffee)
  • Seating arranged in areas conducive to chatting and making new friends.  No lines of tables and chairs please.
  • Occasional tables.  We will be drinking tea (or coffee) and we have big bags full of our classwork, exciting new purchases and the jumper we promised ourselves we would finish this week.  We don’t want to put our drinks on the floor.
  • Good lighting.  We don’t care for mood lighting and we are not remotely interested in the interior design.  We want to be able to see what we are doing, especially when we were having such a good time that we have to undo the previous two rows.  Lights and lots of them please.

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We came from all over the world.  Even Antarctica!

  • Easy access to tea and coffee.  Getting up and leaving our knitting and our new friends is something we only want to have to do in extremis.  Please don’t make us walk upstairs to get a cuppa.  On the same basis, loos nearby are good too.  That tea doesn’t half run through you.
  • Food.  And as above, we don’t want to have to go a long way to find it.  Maybe not in the knitting area (though I have been to festivals where the two are combined and haven’t seen a chocolate cake/fine lacework disaster yet).
  • Information.  We don’t always remember our festival guides and when somebody mentions a really interesting workshop it would be good if we could borrow a guide  or see a timetable on the wall.  Information about other local events (heaven forbid even non-yarn ones!),  a list of local restaurants, taxi phone numbers, bus timetables etc. are all really helpful to the stressed knitter who has been knitting right up to the wire and now has precisely 15 minutes to get something to eat and cross town for their next workshop.

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Samples of the patterns available in this year’s Wool Week Annual

  • Entertainment.  Talks, music, demonstrations.  I discovered Mawatas when Katie Seal of Sealy McWheely gave a talk at Loch Ness KnitFest.  I also had my first spinning lesson with her a few months later.  You never know what you will learn or which new musicians you will discover.

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These were just what was on offer in the Hub

I can confirm that SWW achieves all the above with bells on.  The hub is a knitters dream.  Even Stuart quite happily came and sat with me and chatted to people, admired knitting and tapped his toes to the bands.

That was of course, when he was not bothering the fish at Muckle Flugga.  The record catch, a 40 lb cod.  Fish and chips will be on the menu in several friends houses this weekend!

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I have made new friends from all around the world.  I have laughed until I could hardly speak.  I have watched in awe as knitters create the most beautiful work. I have discovered new yarns and new patterns.  I have learned to knit with a makkin belt.  I have watched spinners turn wool into gold (Rumpelstiltskin eat your heart out).  I have listened to the most talented young musicians and I have enjoyed just being somewhere where I felt so utterly at home.

Enjoy your weekend

Love Gillie x

gowns, gardeners and gongs

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Advice I was given yesterday.

  • Don’t eat the black pudding (ignored that already at breakfast today)
  • Be nice (excellent tenet)
  • Don’t work for anyone you don’t like (I will add a codicil of “unless you have no choice”, rent and food are not luxuries)
  • Say yes (presumably unless you don’t like the person asking)

Notwithstanding the fact that these are huge generalisations and there will be plenty of exceptions to prove the rule, I have added some of my own already, as far as advice for graduates as well as mere Certificate holders such as me they are more succinct and more relevant than much of the stuff that has been doled out to me over my many years in many very different educational institutions.

I rather wish I had a video of the man in question during his talk / speech / stand up routine, as James Alexander Sinclair , reknowned stand up comedian, garden designer has a wicked twinkle in his eye that belies his sober appearance and is an accomplished choreographer, taking control of the stage that we, the graduates had merely marched across, certificates in hand, only moments earlier.  However, pop over to his website for a photo – he looks rather good in a floral headress, and perhaps read his blog to get a little taste of his way with words.

My journey to the lecture hall at RBGE on 12th September began something like this.

Me (observing husband deep in contemplation of expensive fishing tackle on a well-known on-line auction site):  Do you remember how helpful you found the herbal healing salve I made you?

Him (not looking up from piscatorial porn): Hmmmm

Me: I wondered if I should apply for that course at the Edinburgh Botanics I was telling you about.

Him: Hmmm

I signed up on the spot.  And so I morphed from Mum to Professor Smellie Sprout and have never looked back.  Regular and observant readers will know that in October 2020 I take the next step in my herbal journey and start training with Nicki Durrell at The Plant Medicine School in Cork with a view to becoming a fully fledged medical herbalist.  I certainly didn’t see that coming when I told my school careers advisor (in all seriousness) that I wanted to be a spy, or as a fall back, an actress.

And so,  almost a year later Stuart and I arrived at Edinburgh airport from ten days in northern Spain at some silly o’clock hour and crashed out in our Airbnb, chosen to be within walking distance from RGBE, we didn’t think we were going to be up to much travelling the following day!

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Dress (suitably botanical) ironed, hair tamed as best I could I presented myself for registration.  Gosh, there were a lot of people, and they all looked as if they were very knowledgeable.  I was in awe of those that held little tickets that declared they had completed a course in botanical illustration, what witchery is that?!  But lo, I spied a handful of my fellow Herbalogy Certificators (?) and then there we were, clutching our order numbers seated alphabetically by course ready for the off.

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I have been to a number of graduations of my own and more speech days and prize givings than I care to remember.  There were three speakers …..

But the Herbology Gods were smiling, nay they were laughing. First up was David.  If ever there was a perfect example of why Garden Design (new career) is better for the soul than Banking (previous career) it was David.  Pim followed with a wonderful pictorial summary of the MSc in Biodiversity and Taxonomy of Plants which left me wondering if there was room for a Colombian field trip in the Herbology Certificate too!

Next up was Mr Sinclair above and then suddenly it was all over and we were being marshalled for photographs.

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Health and safety alive and well – this was our photographer in the aptly named cherry picker.

It perhaps says something about our particular group that we had all noticed that there we had two drink tokens per person for the reception, and there was rocky road.  I believe there were other nibbles but champagne and rocky road did it for me.

And now  …. ?  Well who knows but for the time being I shall keep saying yes and see what happens.

Love Gillie x

 

 

 

siege, vows, pipes and drums

Only three hundred people,  mostly women and children leave the fortress of Hondarribia after a siege lasting two months.  Over 16,000 canon rounds have been fired and the city is almost destroyed.  But those three hundred people walk out, the city does not surrender and the French, all 27,000 men plus two warships are forced to scuttle away.  After two months the Spanish army relieves a city that has been defended only by local men, women and children.

This was three hundred and sixty one years ago.  However the gratitude of the people of Hondarribia to the people that helped defend the town resulted in a vow to the Virgin of Guadalupe (the patron saint of Hondarribia) to continue to thank her for her intervention during the resistance, siege and ultimate relief of the town.  That vow is kept to this day.

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We arrived on day one.  The first night we saw a single band, last night there were maybe two or three, this evening we lost count.

All marching and preparing, I hesitate to say practicing, because they are march and note perfect for the grand Alarde on 8th September.

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Three hundred years ago the defenders arrived playing pipes and drums and carrying what weapons they had from pitchforks to guns.

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Today they leave the guns and pitchforks behind but keep the pipes and drums.  Each night this week the town is filled with more and more people and more and more bands leading up to the grand finale the Alarde, when the bands march up to the old city and a great feast of celebration begins.

It has been a pleasure and an honour to have unexpectedly been part of these celebrations.  Thank you Hondarribia.

Love Gillie x